Online support for mental health
New technologies and support groups are opening up a new frontier in mental health support and treatment, says Liz Connor, Press Association.
If you're suffering with depression or anxiety, talking therapies can be one of the most effective ways of tackling the issue.
But accessing mental health support can be a lengthy and stressful process in its own right. With approximately 1 in 4 people experiencing a mental health problem each year, often the waiting list for treatment can be months long, so what do you do in the meantime?
Thankfully, technology and start-up initiatives are making the therapy limbo that little bit easier to bear. Whether your own mental health has taken a hit, or someone you know is struggling, there's no need to suffer in silence with these helpful resources.
Mindbox is a website that connects people with affordable and immediate round-the-clock therapy, whether by phone, webcam or webchat. The 24-hour service has a variety of therapists on board, who specialise in everything from abuse to panic attacks.
You don't need to go through a lengthy sign-up process to be connected with the right therapist, although you can become a member to access over 40 tried and tested therapy techniques, developed by experts, that are delivered through video, audio and journal sessions.
The initiative was created and self-funded by TV presenter Anna Richardson, who has spoken openly about her own struggle with anxiety in the past. "If you're suffering from severe anxiety, waiting 10 weeks to access any kind of service can be a life sentence," Richardson has said. "The only other option is that you have to pay for your psychotherapy, which can be very expensive. Mindbox offers a much-needed solution between the two, making therapy affordable and accessible for everybody."
2. Mental Health Mates
When your mental health takes a hit, sometimes all you want to do is be around people who understand what you're going through. Mental Health Mates is a network of peer support walking groups, run by people with mental health issues and set up by journalist Bryony Gordon.
Gordon was inspired to start the initiative after finding relief from the "terrible funk" of her OCD symptoms by getting outdoors. The charity's planned walks are a chance to meet up with like-minded people and discuss your issues without fear of embarrassment or judgement, all while enjoying the wellbeing of being out in nature. There are groups across the country, but if you can't find one in your local area, you can download a walk leader pack from the Mental Health Mates website and be the first to set one up.
Whether it's the endless barrage of emails or the intimidating boardroom meetings, the workplace can be a huge trigger for people who suffer with anxiety or depression. In fact, work-related stress and mental illness now accounts for over half of work absences in the UK, according to figures released by the Health and Safety Executive in 2018.
That's where Unmind comes in. It's a confidential wellness platform for employers, that staff can access at any time, through their desktop or smartphone, and on a day-in-day-out basis if needed. Specifically designed for the workplace, it was started by clinical psychologist Nick Taylor who recognised the lack of immediate support available for the thousands of employees that reach burnout each year.
Acting as a therapist in your pocket, the initiative offers companies that subscribe access to scientifically-backed preventative programmes that can help to combat issues with sleep, stress, productivity, or even your ability to support other people in your team. Everything is broken down into easy-to-digest audio, video, and interactive content.
If you've found yourself slipping into unhealthy habits, like sleeping in, skipping your morning shower and losing interest in your hobbies, this 'habit tracking' app can help to get you back on track while you're waiting for therapy to begin. As you use Tomo, it learns about your lifestyle and prompts you to keep up with the self-care pursuits that keep your mind feeling positive - whether that's turning up for your weekly book club or making sure you make the bed every morning.
Every time you successfully complete a good habit - like waking up early and going for a run - you can share a photo of your achievement with the rest of the Tomo community, so others can give you a virtual thumbs up. The idea is that sharing your 'wins' with others can keep you accountable for your behaviour and motivated to face whatever challenges the day might throw at you.